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The 15th of March sees the beginning, in Valencia, of what has to be one of the most spectacular and exciting 5 days in the whole of Europe. (The famous Mascletas take place every lunchtime, on the dot of two, from 01 March and the city begins to prepare for the final few days at the beginning of the month too)

Fallas is the most extraordinary festival, celebrated only in the Comunidad de Valencia and mainly in the city itself. Supposedly originating from a time way back when carpenters would chuck out old offcuts of wood into the street and set fires to welcome spring - the festival has grown into a feast for all the senses.

Up to 500 huge, highly decorative and beautifully made satirical sculptures, constructed from flammable materials, are set up in every square of the city on the 15th of March. Each sculpture carries satirical verses written in Valenciá, and street parties are held by each one every day and night of the week.This continues, almost without a break until the 19th, when the sculptures, or ninots, are set light to and burned.

2 million visitors to the city come to stare in wonder at these massive creations, (they have to be seen to believed!) and to watch some of the most incredible firework displays , both day and night - Yes, daytime fireworks, or Máscletas, a display of noise and smoke mainly, so loud you are advised to keep your mouth open to avoid bursting your eardrums! - and to watch the Crema - the burning of the Ninots. Of these 2million visitors, most are Spanish as the fallas is a well-kept secret in the rest of the world.

It is one the very best reasons to visit Valencia, There is so much to see and do, the city is alive night and day and if you have the stamina you could party for five days and nights without a break. There are free concerts and dances throughout the city , there are street markets, food vendors selling a special type of doughnut (Buñuelos) available only at this festival time eaten with thick dunking chocolate, there are bullfights, there are the exquisite costumes of the Falleras and Falleros (elected representatives of the Fallas), marching bands and solemn processions (one, the Ofrenda, takes two days and consists of 150,000 Falleras processing through the city to the cathedral to decorate an enormous Virgin Mary with flowers) and every bar and café in the city is open all hours to keep your strength up with food and drink. TVB

SOME FALLAS FACTS AND FIGURES

103,647 Falleras took part in the ofrenda last year, walking through the city to offer their flowers to the Virgen de los Desamparados in the Plaza de la Virgen.

Nou Campanar, the biggest Falla this year and the overall winner cooked a Paella for 500 people on monday. That's 50kilos of rice and 7 litres of Olive oil and 200 kilos of wood to cook it on! An estimated 120 million people are said to have watched the Crema at Nou Campanar, thanks to BBC World, CNN, and other satellite tv channels.

It Hurts! The Red Cross looked after 115 people in the streets during Fallas for injuries from fireworks. The looked after a total of 940.

Confiscated - the police confiscated a total of 1,273 dangerous rockets from people in the streets

Churros - 80 kilos of churros were confiscated from street stalls considered to be not up to standard.

Rubbish from Fallas - last year the city had to clear up 9,610 tons, 1,470 tons more than last year.

Vandalism was down last year. Wastebins and Rubbish Containers are the favourite targets and last year 1,093 wastebins (53 less than 2006) and 104 Rubbish containers (31 less than 2006) were damaged and hade to be replaced. Total cost to the city 79,054 Euros. The whole cleaning bill cost 295,000 euros, an increase of 24% over the previous year. This all sounds a lot until you think that during the festival over 2 million people visited the city and Fallas has generated 60 Million Euros.

LAS FALLAS 2008

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A MASCLETÀ FOR THE CRIDA
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